Adventure in Punta San Carlos

Feb 10, 2011
by Ian Hylands  
 
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Punta San Carlos is calling out to me again. I’m the kind of guy that likes warmth and sunshine and I’m not actually sure why I live in the Pacific North West, or the North Wet as I sometimes refer to it. My home is actually really nice in the summer, it’s the short dreary days of fall and winter with their accompanying long nights that really get to me. And so I travel, and as I was saying, Punta San Carlos is calling to me. I went there a little over a year ago with Randy Spangler, Claire Buchar, Josh Bender, and Lauren Ritz, and I had every intention of going back at least once a year. So much for intentions...

Punta San Carlos is located 275 miles south of the San Diego border on the Pacific Ocean of Baja California Norte Mexico. Rich in cultural & geological history, this secluded coastal desert wilderness offers visitors a myriad of activities on and off the water. Punta San Carlos provides a world class venue for watersports activities including windsurfing, surfing, kitesurfing, and stand up paddleboarding, while for mountain bikers there are over 80 miles of singletrack suitable for every ability level.
  Punta San Carlos is located 275 miles south of the San Diego border on the Pacific Ocean of Baja California Norte Mexico. Rich in cultural & geological history, this secluded coastal desert wilderness offers visitors a myriad of activities on and off the water. Punta San Carlos provides a world class venue for watersports activities including windsurfing, surfing, kitesurfing, and stand up paddleboarding, while for mountain bikers there are over 80 miles of singletrack suitable for every ability level.


Yes, over 80 miles of singletrack, and surfing, and sun, all in the same place... It took me a while to get there the first time so I guess I'm just a busy guy. The trip to PSC starts out of San Diego, and it's neither difficult nor expensive to get there from here, so there must be other reasons. I tried unsuccessfully to plan several trips there this year, but organizing a photo trip to Mexico during the bike
  Yes, over 80 miles of singletrack, and surfing, and sun, all in the same place... It took me a while to get there the first time so I guess I'm just a busy guy. The trip to PSC starts out of San Diego, and it's neither difficult nor expensive to get there from here, so there must be other reasons. I tried unsuccessfully to plan several trips there this year, but organizing a photo trip to Mexico during the bike "season" is something that isn't really all that easy. Perhaps it was also my super hectic travel schedule last summer, when I had a few days off I wanted to be home, not somewhere else far away.


There were three riders on that first trip, and as unlikely a bunch as I'd ever spent time with. Randy Spangler, an old school soul rider with more real style than most kids today, Josh Bender, undeniably the King of going huge on a bike, and Claire Buchar, Canadian DH girl extraordinaire. Randy has been riding for Santa Cruz for as long as I can remember, and was one of the original Superheroes (for those of you that remember videos more than 3 years old) He's more recently been designing and building pump tracks as well as jump and skills parks around the world.
  There were three riders on that first trip, and as unlikely a bunch as I'd ever spent time with. Randy Spangler, an old school soul rider with more real style than most kids today, Josh Bender, undeniably the King of going huge on a bike, and Claire Buchar, Canadian DH girl extraordinaire. Randy has been riding for Santa Cruz for as long as I can remember, and was one of the original Superheroes (for those of you that remember videos more than 3 years old) He's more recently been designing and building pump tracks as well as jump and skills parks around the world.


Josh Bender, best known for hucking himself repeatedly off the
  Josh Bender, best known for hucking himself repeatedly off the "Jaw Drop" in the early NWD films, others have landed bigger things, but he started it all. Bender is one of the nicest people I know, I'd been on a trip with him and Randy before and was stoked to hang out with both of them again.


Claire Buchar had recently married Chris Kovarik and had just finished the season racing the World Cup DH circuit. I'd spent more time with Claire than any of the others, mostly because we live in the same part of the world.
  Claire Buchar had recently married Chris Kovarik and had just finished the season racing the World Cup DH circuit. I'd spent more time with Claire than any of the others, mostly because we live in the same part of the world.


Lauren Ritz. Katrina Strand was going to come with Claire, however at the last minute she couldn't get the time off work and was replaced by Lauren, a friend of Claire's from Whistler. I'd met Lauren a couple of weeks previously at a girls riding and drinking weekend, and I'm stoked that she came.
  Lauren Ritz. Katrina Strand was going to come with Claire, however at the last minute she couldn't get the time off work and was replaced by Lauren, a friend of Claire's from Whistler. I'd met Lauren a couple of weeks previously at a girls riding and drinking weekend, and I'm stoked that she came.


There is something about throwing together a random group of people and sending them off to a remote location for a week. In the high stress world of modern day America I'm sure you'd normally end up with a lot of situations straight out of a reality television show, but this was different. From our arrival in Punta San Carlos late on a foggy night, until our departure 6 days later, there was no competition, and nothing to be had but fun, all day every day. The only real decisions were when to ride bikes and when to do other things. Deciding when to stop drinking every night was usually a decision as well, but that was an individual one, and people gradually faded out to bed. A lot of the decision making came down to choosing the best time to shoot photos, which for good light was pretty much sunrise and sunset, and that left the rest of the day open for anything else.
  There is something about throwing together a random group of people and sending them off to a remote location for a week. In the high stress world of modern day America I'm sure you'd normally end up with a lot of situations straight out of a reality television show, but this was different. From our arrival in Punta San Carlos late on a foggy night, until our departure 6 days later, there was no competition, and nothing to be had but fun, all day every day. The only real decisions were when to ride bikes and when to do other things. Deciding when to stop drinking every night was usually a decision as well, but that was an individual one, and people gradually faded out to bed. A lot of the decision making came down to choosing the best time to shoot photos, which for good light was pretty much sunrise and sunset, and that left the rest of the day open for anything else.


Anything else ended up being riding bikes, siestas, trying to surf, and just generally hanging out, which is a great way to get to know new people. There was a lot of time spent sitting around in the sun during the middle of the day, eating meals, and enjoying a Baja Fog or two in the evening.
  Anything else ended up being riding bikes, siestas, trying to surf, and just generally hanging out, which is a great way to get to know new people. There was a lot of time spent sitting around in the sun during the middle of the day, eating meals, and enjoying a Baja Fog or two in the evening.


The Baja Fog is a wonderful drink, I'm not sure I need to say much more than that. It starts its life as a bottle of beer and then has the neck poured out of it, quickly to be replaced with Tequila. In a perfect world the tequila doesn't mix with the beer and sits there happily on top, waiting until the bottle is up-ended and the shot quickly swallowed. It comes with its own beer chaser. If you drink it slowly the tequila mixes with the beer, which in my opinion ruins both. Anyway I'm digressing, we drank a lot of beer and tequila in the evenings, which undoubtably fueled the friendships that were created. I was the odd one out as I already knew everyone before the trip, but that gave me a great opportunity to watch everyone else's interactions. And as much as I thought I knew everyone, you definitely get to know people in a different way sitting around drinking Tequila every night. I could almost swear Bender turned into Donnie Darko one night during some excessive partying...
  The Baja Fog is a wonderful drink, I'm not sure I need to say much more than that. It starts its life as a bottle of beer and then has the neck poured out of it, quickly to be replaced with Tequila. In a perfect world the tequila doesn't mix with the beer and sits there happily on top, waiting until the bottle is up-ended and the shot quickly swallowed. It comes with its own beer chaser. If you drink it slowly the tequila mixes with the beer, which in my opinion ruins both. Anyway I'm digressing, we drank a lot of beer and tequila in the evenings, which undoubtably fueled the friendships that were created. I was the odd one out as I already knew everyone before the trip, but that gave me a great opportunity to watch everyone else's interactions. And as much as I thought I knew everyone, you definitely get to know people in a different way sitting around drinking Tequila every night. I could almost swear Bender turned into Donnie Darko one night during some excessive partying...


On the drive down from San Diego we had stopped to pick up a few supplies, and as the holiday
  On the drive down from San Diego we had stopped to pick up a few supplies, and as the holiday "Dia de los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead" had been the day before, it was suggested that we get a few things to celebrate with. Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of deceased friends and relatives and usually involves building shrines and alters in memory of the dead. So we ended up on a quest for skeletons and candles and all sorts of other props with which to create a "shrine" for our own deceased friends.


The evening of our first real night in PSC we built our shrine and in true mtb fashion proceeded to jump over it. Anything less would have been unacceptable, and it got the trip started off in the right direction.
  The evening of our first real night in PSC we built our shrine and in true mtb fashion proceeded to jump over it. Anything less would have been unacceptable, and it got the trip started off in the right direction.


The riding in Punta San Carlos is predominantly soft dirt single track in the desert, and there are several hundred feet of elevation in the immediate area, making for some easy climbs and really fun pseudo downhill runs.
  The riding in Punta San Carlos is predominantly soft dirt single track in the desert, and there are several hundred feet of elevation in the immediate area, making for some easy climbs and really fun pseudo downhill runs.


Although I'd hardly call it downhilling, there were more than a few trails that had us all grinning from ear to ear... The first run down
  Although I'd hardly call it downhilling, there were more than a few trails that had us all grinning from ear to ear... The first run down "Dads" everyone was laughing and whooping, there's something about a trail that goes turn to turn to turn in good dirt for a long time, even if you do have to pedal a bit.


There is also an area called the badlands that is like a small dirt skatepark with lots of hoodoos and bizarre terrain that I'm sure will continue to develop with every rider that spends any time there. Chris Van Dine had sculpted a few lines during his stay, and we had a lot of fun riding them.
  There is also an area called the badlands that is like a small dirt skatepark with lots of hoodoos and bizarre terrain that I'm sure will continue to develop with every rider that spends any time there. Chris Van Dine had sculpted a few lines during his stay, and we had a lot of fun riding them.


There is an incredible variety of terrain in Punta San Carlos, and for the most part everyone was really happy with the bikes that they brought. A 5 inch travel all mountain bike is probably the best bet, and while Bender got by with a long travel DH bike, you really want something that is fun to pedal on the uphills as well.
  There is an incredible variety of terrain in Punta San Carlos, and for the most part everyone was really happy with the bikes that they brought. A 5 inch travel all mountain bike is probably the best bet, and while Bender got by with a long travel DH bike, you really want something that is fun to pedal on the uphills as well.


Claire, relaxing with a cold one... Solosports is an all-inclusive camp, and they have a lot of water sports toys. Unfortunately the surf wasn't great while we were there, but everyone managed to get in the water at least once either surfing, kayaking, or boogey boarding. I'm almost more at home in the ocean than on the land, so I was stoked to get out a few times, surfing as well as kayaking and stand up paddling. It was great to be in the water almost every day, and it was also really nice to just sit in the sun with a cold beer for an hour or two, a luxury I rarely take the time for.
  Claire, relaxing with a cold one... Solosports is an all-inclusive camp, and they have a lot of water sports toys. Unfortunately the surf wasn't great while we were there, but everyone managed to get in the water at least once either surfing, kayaking, or boogey boarding. I'm almost more at home in the ocean than on the land, so I was stoked to get out a few times, surfing as well as kayaking and stand up paddling. It was great to be in the water almost every day, and it was also really nice to just sit in the sun with a cold beer for an hour or two, a luxury I rarely take the time for.


The accommodations at the camp are in tents. Not a bad deal in Mexico, this was the view from my tent every morning. It made waking up easy, even after a lot of drinks the night before...
  The accommodations at the camp are in tents. Not a bad deal in Mexico, this was the view from my tent every morning. It made waking up easy, even after a lot of drinks the night before...


All inclusive also means all your meals are taken care of, and from the coffee in the morning to dinner at night it was amazing. Claire digs into a plate of freshly cooked Mexican food.
  All inclusive also means all your meals are taken care of, and from the coffee in the morning to dinner at night it was amazing. Claire digs into a plate of freshly cooked Mexican food.


Sunrise over the tents in the morning. In order to shoot in that epic first light you need to get up early.
  Sunrise over the tents in the morning. In order to shoot in that epic first light you need to get up early.


Randy and Claire riding into the sunrise.
  Randy and Claire riding into the sunrise.


Late afternoon sun, long shadows mean the day is almost done.
  Late afternoon sun, long shadows mean the day is almost done.


Some day I'd like to get a shot of a surfer on this wave while someone rides down the trail.
  Some day I'd like to get a shot of a surfer on this wave while someone rides down the trail.


Randy Spangler
  Randy Spangler


Late night fireworks over the camp... Returning home to the rain and the snow was definitely a let-down, but the memories still remain. SoloSports slogan is
  Late night fireworks over the camp... Returning home to the rain and the snow was definitely a let-down, but the memories still remain. SoloSports slogan is "You just don't know until you go" and I couldn't agree more. I'm thinking of teaching a photography workshop there this summer, and while it won't be cheap it will include a week in mtb paradise learning all about action photography, who wants to go?


SoloSports Adventure Holidays offers all-inclusive packages including air or ground transportation from San Diego. Their exclusive camp on the beach in Punta San Carlos includes deluxe tent accommodations on a carpeted tarmac, and all meals, snacks and beverages including a well-stocked cantina are complimentary. Special guest services include coaching in all sport activities, as well as a selection of demo equipment for both water sports and mountain biking.

For more information including current rates see their website at www.solosports.net
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55 Comments

  • + 20
 This was gorgeous in so many ways... and people ask why we ride bikes, haha.
  • + 11
 loving the minimalistic layout of this article! all PB articles should be presented in this way with big photos and the photo descriptions on a white background beneath. Allows us readers to focus more on the content of the article, in this case, a fantastic read, makes me wish I lived on the west coast.
  • + 1
 Yup! I agree! Loved it!
  • + 9
 Awesome Article Ian, and your shots of course!
  • + 1
 agreed
  • + 8
 really great photos here, much better this size
  • + 2
 yeh its nice - mostly cos it doesnt tear your eyes out like having a blackground does.
  • + 1
 thanks guys, stoked that you like it!
  • + 1
 great atmospheric photos and and excellent layout!
  • + 1
 They shot a segment from Follow Me there!
  • + 2
 oonce again, Ian the master, make us see our sport and the adventure that envolve, like some thing grat, just like it realy is. you guys are always welcome to mexico, a grat conuntry with grat peaple and of course, with awesome trails. HAITMAN
  • + 3
 Thank you very much, I can't wait to go back and also to some other places in Mexico...
  • + 3
 been there donde that is a realy great place to ride mile and mile of sigle track over giant catus very epic pure baja desert and with that majical coast just great place , hope to go this year ...
  • + 2
 Thanks for all the awesome feedback everyone, we'll be using this format for select photo posts from now on. Probably one every week or two to start with. Let me know if there are any issues with how it works for everyone. DM me here on PB and include what the problem is and also what computer you're using (mac or pc) as well as the browser and what size your screen is.
  • + 2
 This is the kind of article you want to read in the winter, simply put well done sir! This is the vacation we all dream about, not whistler (and I love whistler), riding with peers and drinking beers, what could be better? Good read and a reason I keep coming back to pinkbike.
  • + 3
 Thanks Ian for showing one of the many places Mexico has to offer to all of those who love riding mountain bikes. Awesome pics.
  • + 3
 Ian thanks showing worlwide the real Mexico, Will be a pleasure receiving guys like you with Haitman, MTB mexico and us down here in puebla.
  • + 1
 Ian, Have you ever though of doing a shoot somewhere out of the Norm? Say like Here in South Korea. There are many Americans that live and ride here, most of which are in the service. There are TONS of great riding locations here, from Epic xc to blazing DH. Gotta check it out man.
  • + 2
 Awesome! Great to see you guys enjoyed Mexico. It may be a little further away but you really should get round to riding the endless singletrack trails in Veracruz. Check us out at MexicoMTB.com Saludos!
  • + 2
 I will do that, thanks!
  • + 1
 Great writeup and cool pictorial! Really like the shots overlooking the beach… Any other sunset shots with Claire Buchar? That sky is awesome and I like the shallow DoF, but I'd really like to see one without the palms (or not so prominent). Thanks for sharing!
  • + 3
 This is how every PB article should be presented. Great minimal layout, clean text with big photos. Awesome article!
  • + 1
 If you don't like 6 months of rain in the PNW, move. I have lived here my whole life and all people need to do is adapt or move.
  • + 1
 I don't need to move, I travel a lot and it's fine. If I didn't like it here I wouldn't live here...
  • + 1
 First photo-workshop I ever even considered attending Wink If I could afford it, I'd be there. This place is on my bucket list for sure - great photos too!
  • + 1
 Fan-f*cking-tastic travel journal. Thanks for sharing, Ian. You're photography is an inspiration. Keep us posted on the photog workshop!
  • + 1
 I love "Claire, relaxing with a cold one" Smile Light is excellent, soft and pictures look kind of like a dream! Well done Ian! Smile
Can I ask what camera do you use?
  • + 1
 This trip was Nikon D2x and D700, assortment of lenses...
  • + 2
 I agree with piehouserat, the way the article is presented is simply briliant.
  • + 2
 Really like these kind of articles! and Randy Spangler still rocks! Smile
  • + 3
 yeah mexicoo!
  • + 2
 GREAT RIDING PICS!!

allmountain=cool
  • + 1
 the wave in the background of the 4th pic from the bottom is such a nice wave! I wanna go down their surfing!!
  • + 1
 The surfing there in the summer is actually quite good, I need to go back!
  • + 1
 Ian your photo's are so Surreal, amazing.......Did anyone else notice the V10 with a single crown fork?
  • + 2
 Josh Bender!! yeeaahhhh!! Smile
  • + 1
 GREAT GREAT ARTICLE! This is what it's all about!
  • + 1
 any one else notice that little baggie Bender has? haha
  • + 1
 So, I would love to go to your photography workshop! Any dates yet?
  • + 1
 It will probably be June sometime in Punta San Carlos, haven't set solid dates yet, I haven't got a price set yet either. It won't be cheap, but it will be a 1 week biking holiday in baja with 5 days of photography workshop thrown in... I'll let you know as soon as I figure out the details.
  • + 1
 Sweet, I'm totally stoked to learn more! There is always more to learn Smile
  • + 1
 An amazing place and lets dont forget the amazing photography !
  • + 1
 those photos are EPCOT CENTER
  • + 2
 beautiful shots!
  • + 1
 Sweet story and photos Ian, looks like a very good time.
  • + 1
 Thanks, it is an amazing time. I would urge anyone that can afford to go with a few friends to make the trip!
  • + 1
 Sensational Photos...unreal stuff...and Claire's legs....Yow!
  • + 1
 anthill films did a segment their for follow me
  • + 1
 wheres the follow me crew?
  • + 1
 Probably at home in Squamish or Whistler, why?
  • + 1
 Brilliant!!!
  • + 1
 awesome stuff guys
  • + 1
 Some insane shots there.
  • + 1
 epic photos

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